Sacramento seeks lucrative trade ties with Chinese city of 28 million people

Published: Monday, May. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 - 3:15 pm

Nearly three dozen officials from the city of Sacramento, local food and agricultural companies, and clean technology firms will head to Chongqing, China, this week to take part in a trade and commerce show held annually in the massive business hub.

The delegation is an extension of the city's growing relationship with Chongqing, a municipality of nearly 30 million people in southwest China that serves as a major manufacturing and commercial center.

Last July, Sacramento – spearheaded by former Councilman Rob Fong – signed a memorandum of understanding with Wang Yi, the president of the Chongqing Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Commission. The agreement sought to develop business and educational ties between the cities.

On April 16, the city opened a trade office in Chongqing – believed to be its first foreign trade consulate. The trade office, and the China Chongqing International Investment and Global Sourcing Fair this week, will give Sacramento an opportunity to promote its agricultural, clean technology and higher education sectors.

The trade office is funded by $96,688 from the city's general fund budget, which supports most core services. The city is also paying for two employees to attend the trade show this week.

"People always say they'd love to do business with China," said Fong, who started a nonprofit called the California-Chongqing Trade and Commerce Organization that oversees the effort. "We have a real opportunity now through the trade office. It's a real portal to a real place that has (28 million) people and growing. We're in on the ground floor."

The visit by 35 local officials this week comes after Gov. Jerry Brown's visit to China last month. During that trip, Brown announced that a Chinese firm will invest $1.5 billion in a large housing, retail and commercial development on the Oakland waterfront.

Sacramento officials are hoping to have the same kind of success.

"It may not be on that magnitude, but what we're hoping to get is the kind of investment that will be very beneficial and will be translated into real money and real jobs," said Jim Rinehart, the city's director of economic development.

Joining Rinehart and Fong on the delegation this week are representatives of SMUD, the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization and California State University, Sacramento; Mayor Linda Dahlmeier of Oroville; Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach; and officials from more than a dozen local clean tech and agriculture companies.

According to the Chongqing trade expo's website, the fair attracted more than 380 companies from around the world last year. Rinehart said it is one of the 10 largest trade expos in the world.

Rinehart said he expects the Sacramento delegation to return home with a signed agreement that will lead to goods from Sacramento being imported to Chongqing through a foreign trade zone. Fong said Chongqing trade officials have also expressed an interest in Sacramento companies setting up agriculture and clean technology centers in China.

"We see this as a bridge between our two regions that carries traffic and goods in both directions," Fong said. "They are open for business. They're very hungry to explore this relationship with us."

Call The Bee's Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_lillis.

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